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University of Iowa News Release


March 31, 2009

April 7 event at the Englert Theatre will roll out 'City of Literature' vision

The vision for the Iowa City area's participation in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a "City of Literature" will be rolled out in a free, public event at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, in the Englert Theatre, downtown Iowa City. Light refreshments will be available.

A coalition of community institutions in the Iowa City area has taken the first crucial step of establishing a nonprofit entity that will be the hub for local City of Literature projects and connections to other Creative Cities recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The program -- emceed by Wallace Chappell, an artistic consultant to the City of Coralville and former director of the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium -- will feature remarks by UI President Sally Mason and former Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn. Ali Bowden, director of the City of Literature office in Edinburgh, Scotland, and a leading voice in the Creative Cities Network, will discuss the efforts of her office and expand upon the possibilities of inter-city collaboration.

Marvin Bell, emeritus faculty member in the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Iowa's first poet laureate, will also give a brief reading and offer remarks.

Iowa City joined Edinburgh, Scotland, and Melbourne, Australia, as Cities of Literature with a UNESCO announcement on Nov. 20, 2008.

Other cities in the Creative Cities Network -- which honors and connects cultural centers for cinema, music, crafts and folk arts, design, media arts and gastronomy, as well as literature -- include Aswan, Egypt; Santa Fe, N.M.; Berlin, Germany; Montreal, Canada; Popayan, Colombia; Bologna, Italy; Shenzhen, China; Kobe, Japan; and Seville, Spain.

The UI Writing University committee, chaired by International Writing Program (IWP) Director Christopher Merrill, organized and submitted the UNESCO proposal on behalf of the city. Learn more at

The Creative Cities Network was designed to promote the social, economic and cultural development of cities in both the developed and the developing world. The cities that apply to join to the network seek to promote their local creative scene; they share interest in UNESCO's mission toward cultural diversity. Once the city is appointed to the network, it can share experiences and create new opportunities for itself and others on a global platform, notably for activities based on the notion of "creative tourism."

The Writing University taskforce was launched by former UI Provost Michael Hogan to embrace and celebrate the UI's stature as a literary center, and to provide enhanced opportunities for coordination and cooperation among UI literary programs.

The Writing University -- represented on the Web at -- includes the Writers' Workshop, the IWP, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, the Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, the Intermedia area of the School of Art and Art History, the Irish Writing Program, the Iowa Young Writers' Studio, the Translation Workshop, the Spanish Creative Writing Workshop, the UI Center for the Book, the UI Press and the Iowa Review.

The catalyst for the UI's literary activity was the Writers' Workshop, the first creative writing degree program anywhere and the blueprint for many of the creative writing programs that now thrive on campuses worldwide. The stature of the program was recently enhanced when two poets connected to the workshop -- Robert Hass and Philip Schultz -- shared the 2008 Pulitzer Prize, UI poetry graduate Juan Felipe Herrera shared the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award with former workshop faculty member August Kleinzahler, former workshop faculty member Mark Doty won the 2008 National Book Award in poetry, and International Writing Program veteran Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize.

To view a video of Poet Laureate Marvin Bell discussing the history of writing in Iowa City and reading his poem "Writers in a Café," or to hear audio of Bell discussing the history of the Writers' Workshop and the International Writing Program, visit

The formation of the Writing University taskforce and the launch of the Writing University Web site are detailed in this news release:

For UI arts information and calendar updates visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to and click the link "Join or Leave ACR News," then follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Christopher Merrill, International Writing Program,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),